Early life and career
Mills' father is a Torres Strait Islander and his mother is an Aborigine from the Ynunga people of South Australia. He was first exposed to basketball as a four-year-old with The Shadows, an Indigenous Australian team that his parents established. Mills attended Marist College Canberra where he played a variety of sports in addition to basketball, such as Australian football and athletics. He served as ball boy for the Canberra Cannons of the NBL around 2000. During that time, his family developed a close relationship with Cannons player David Patrick, who would eventually play a key role in Mills' career.
At the age of 15, Mills was selected for the ACT U-18 squad to compete in the Australian National Championships. The following year, Mills accepted a full-time scholarship with the Australian Institute of Sport, which had also developed three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson and current Golden State Warriors player Andrew Bogut, where he continued to develop as a player. He also made a strong impression at the 2005 Australian Olympic Youth Festival, an event considered to be a showcase for future elite sporting talents.
In January 2006, he received the RE Staunton Medal as top player in the Australia under-20 national championships. In April that year, he received more international attention when he was named to the World team of under-20 players that played a US team of the same age group at the Nike Hoop Summit in Memphis, Tennessee. Mills led the World squad with 6 assists and also added 8 points in a losing effort. He was one of 22 players invited to try out for the Australia squad for the 2006 FIBA World Championship, becoming the youngest player ever to participate in a Boomers training camp. While he was in training with the Boomers in July, he was named by Basketball Australia as the Junior Male Player of the Year. Mills also had an outstanding 2006 season with the AIS men's team in the South East Australian Basketball League (SEABL), earning him a place on the All SEABL East men's team and the honour of 2006 SEABL U-21 Australian Youth Player of the Year. He went on to be named the 2006 Basketball Australia Player of the Year, and also received two major awards from Indigenous Australian organisations—The Deadlys Award for Most Promising New Talent in Sport and NAIDOC's National Sportsperson of the Year.[
Mills signed with Saint Mary's College of California during the NCAA national early signing period in November 2006. Although he was pursued by several other NCAA Division I schools such as Utah (where Bogut played before coming to the NBA), Wake Forest, Alabama, and Nebraska (where he would have joined fellow Australian Aleks Maric), he came to Saint Mary's, indicating that he was comfortable with the Gaels' head coach Randy Bennett. Also, just prior to the 2006–07 season, Bennett had hired Mills' old family friend David Patrick as an assistant coach. Mills became the fifth Australian that Bennett successfully recruited since arriving at St. Mary's in 2001. One of the other Australians to have played under Bennett at Saint Mary's was fellow AIS old boy Daniel Kickert, the Gaels' all-time leading scorer.
Mills also followed in Kickert's footsteps in another way, becoming the first freshman to start for the Gaels since Kickert did so in the 2002–03 season. He first broke into the American basketball consciousness in his fourth game of the 2007–08 season, when he scored 37 points to lead the Gaels to an upset of nationally ranked Oregon on 20 November 2007. The win also validated pre-season expectations for the Gaels, who were picked before the season to finish second in the West Coast Conference behind traditional conference power Gonzaga. The Gaels went on to start the season 7–0 and earn their first national ranking since 1989. The Gaels also won the 2007 edition of the Rainbow Classic, an annual eight-team December tournament hosted by the University of Hawaiʻi, with Mills being named tournament MVP.
The Gaels were nationally ranked for most of the season, ultimately finishing second in WCC regular-season play to Gonzaga. After the regular season, Mills was named WCC Newcomer of the Year and also made the All-WCC first team. At the end of the regular season, Mills was the second-leading freshman scorer in the WCC at 14.4 points per game, and also led all WCC freshmen in assists (3.47 per game) and steals (1.80 per game).
The Gaels went on to the NCAA tournament, where they lost in the first round to Miami (FL). In that game, Mills' 24 points made him the only Gael to score in double figures, and he also led the Gaels with 5 assists.
Despite the 19-hour time difference between Mills' hometown of Canberra and the U.S. West Coast, Australian television showed Gaels games live.
Portland Trail Blazers
In April 2009, Mills entered the 2009 NBA Draft, waiting until the final minutes of the deadline before making the decision. He was selected with the 25th pick of the second round (55th pick overall) by the Portland Trail Blazers.
During practice for the NBA Summer League, he suffered a fracture in his right foot, and required surgery. He signed with the Blazers in October 2009 after speculation of whether he would be signed at all due to the injury and the number of point guards already on the roster.
After completing rehabilitation from surgery on his foot in December, Mills was assigned to the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League. In his debut with Idaho, he scored 38 points and added 12 assists and 3 rebounds. After one more game with the Stampede, in which he scored the game-winning basket, Mills made his NBA debut for the Trail Blazers on 4 January. In just under 5 minutes he registered 2 assists but scored no points. Mills was re-assigned to the Stampede on 13 January 2010, but returned to the Blazers later that month. Mills saw his minute allocation rise in December 2010, and his statistical contribution rose accordingly. It marked the first significant court-time for Mills in his NBA career. Mills along with teammate Rudy Fernández donated 50% of the proceeds from their jerseys sales, throughout the month of January, to help those affected by the floods in Australia.
On 13 April 2011, the final game of the regular season, Mills hit 23 points against the Golden State Warriors on 7–16 from the field and 4–7 from three-point range, along with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
On 29 August 2011, during the 2011 NBA lockout, Mills signed with the Melbourne Tigers in Australia for the 2011–12 NBL season. On 7 October, he suited up for the Tigers' first home game against the Sydney Kings in Round 1, scoring 28 points and leading the Tigers to a 82–76 win in the inaugural Capital City Clash.
After playing 9 games for the Tigers, Mills announced he would be leaving the Tigers to play in China with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. He finished his short NBL stint with averages of 18.6 points per game, 2.3 rebounds per game and 5 assists per game. His stint in China would end on 3 January 2012 when he would be released for allegedly faking a hamstring injury. Mills denied this report. In the 12 games that Mills played for Xinjiang, he averaged 26.5 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 3.8 assists per game, and 2.7 steals per game.
San Antonio Spurs
On 27 March 2012, Mills signed with the San Antonio Spurs after a week or so of attempting to attain a work visa so he could make the transition. He scored 20 points in his third game back against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On 26 April 2012, Mills scored a career high 34 points and also dished out 12 assists in the Spurs' 107–101 win against the Golden State Warriors. Mills also surpassed Andrew Bogut's record for most points in a single NBA game by an Australian.
In the 2011–2012 season, Mills averaged 10.3 points, 2.4 assists, and 1.8 rebounds in 16 games played.
On 13 July 2012, Mills re-signed with the Spurs for the 2012-13 season. Mills averaged 5.1 points, 1.1 assists, and 0.9 rebounds in 58 games that season.
On June 24, 2013, it was announced that Mills had exercised his player option to return to the Spurs for 2013-14 season.
NBA career statistics
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|